What is in the name?

Sticklepath is said to derive from  words meaning steep path.  This photograph shows the steep path I suspect the name comes from (top left). Many surnames also refer to geographical features. 

One of the burials in Sticklepath Quaker Burying Ground is John Cann, Buried October 25th 1868 aged 61.   Ancestry tells us this name comes from an Old English word canna, meaning a deep valley. (Sadly not from “knowing a man who Cann”!)  So this is a topographic name as in “Samuel from the Valley”. The family name is also found in Scotland, Canada and the USA between 1840 and 1920. The most Cann families were found in the UK in 1891, when Devon boasted the most – 1,045 Cann families living in Devon – enough to give any genealogist nightmares! This was about 34% of all the recorded Cann’s in the UK in 1891.

Another sad burial is that of Mary Ann Huxtable Ching, Buried May 18th 1870, aged only a few days. The Ching family lived at Combehead Farm, Tongue End.  They considered themselves to be part of Sticklepath at that time. Ancestry tells us the Ching family name was also found in the USA, the UK, Canada, and Scotland between 1840 and 1920. (I wonder if this just means these are the areas they have most records for between those dates!) The most Ching families were found in the USA in 1920, but in 1891 Devon had the highest population of Ching families. There were 136 Ching families living in Devon, about 30% of all the recorded Ching’s in the UK. Ching also is a topographical surname, the family who lived near a ravine or a crevice, chasm, or canyon.

Ching is also a Canton romanticisation of Cheung, but was not one of the 100 original Chinese surnames.  The potential Chinese connection caused some confusion for those who knew my family as my Great Aunt was a Methodist Missionary in China before the 2nd world war.  There is no known connection, though I suppose DNA might prove otherwise! Here she is, Phyllis Finch, pictured with Grandma Ching, so about 1905. Taken in Bude this must have been a family outing to the seaside or perhaps a special trip to these renowned photographers.

Incidentally there is a great book about these pioneering photographers with great photos, written by David and Stuart Thorn:


Back to my first household in the 1841 census, Mr and Mrs Mance.  This surname may have come from the family occupation – someone who made handles for agricultural and domestic implements, from an Anglo-Norman French word for handle.  It was the Normans who first introduced the use of surnames to identify people.  Identification became necessary when personal taxation was introduced. https://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Mance

Incidentally Sticklepath ‘Quaker’ burying ground was only used by The Friends up to 1816 since when it has been open to all religions but affectionately still known by that name. Quakers believe all are equal in death, rich or poor and therefore Quaker burial grounds either have no gravestones (as here) or only very plain small uniform ones. Names can be traced to the Quaker meeting minutes of the time.

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